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Annual Address by H.E. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania (2000)

Vilnius, 20 April 2000

Distinguished Chairman of the Seimas,
The High Seimas,
My Dear Fellow Citizens,

For the second time I address you to present my vision of the current situation and to discuss our joint work to our own benefit and to the benefit of our children. On the threshold of the new age and the new millennium those issues are of particular importance to the people of Lithuania.

The last ten years have been marked by essential transformations entailing changes in the social structure, economic relations and guidelines of development of the nation. The speed of changes has not always provided us with time for a proper analysis of their nature and for directing their cause in the best way for us. Some people find them frightening and difficult to understand since they disrupt their usual rhythm of life. All this is reflected in the letters, which I receive from the people and which rather often speak of uncertainty and disillusionment.

"We have returned to candle days. … We expected positive changes but the life is increasingly getting worse. … We were deprived of freedom but had the bread. … Only public servants have the right to freedom," the Lithuanian people write. Sometimes this rapid change of life discomposes even the intellectuals and the politicians. Therefore it is necessary to turn away from emotionally based rhetorical fights and analyse rationally the ongoing changes as well as project the guidelines of the future development of the nation and the State.

The year 1999 was a particularly difficult time for us. It has most vividly the accomplishments of the first decade of independence and has exposed the complex problems encountered by our society and the State.

The Lithuanian economy, even though with huge losses, passed the test of the Russian crisis. Regrettably, we, the authorities of the State, failed to pass it. Not only did we fail to form a realistic state budget last year but also did not adjust it in time. Only in the face of an obvious threat to the financial and economic stability of the State had the majority of the Seimas, though with some delay and after a serious in-house crisis, assumed responsibility for the situation in the country. The Government started to display a new way of management. I hope that the current Cabinet will be able to correct in time its mistakes and, if necessary, further adjust budget of this year.

Last year the international community evaluated the progress made by our State. At the Washington NATO Summit the heads of state and government of the Alliance identified Lithuania as an active aspiring country and raised hope that Lithuania's membership of NATO may be considered in the year 2002. The Helsinki European Council invited Lithuania to start accession negotiations with the EU. That was an encouraging part of the last year.

The other part was more complicated and marked by the signs of a painful crisis.

Last year the GDP fell by 4.1 per cent. The public debt was growing and reached LTL13 billion. It is both a paradox and a law that the signs of crisis became evident in the tenth year of independence. They speak of nothing else but the price to be paid for undone reforms; the price to be paid for the policy of giving in to inertia of the past and the fear of change.

Today we increasingly feel the negative results of delayed restructuring of energy industry and state monopolies, the failure to introduce effective management in the main walks of public life. Who can tell how much we have lost by feeding the rural residents with empty promises; how many young people could not receive education and hence acquire profession because of a halting education reform; how many people have abandoned the hope of a secure retired life because of protracted restructuring of the social security system. Would the unemployment surged so high if we would have paid more attention to the development of small and medium sized business?

As the citizens of a democratic state we should consider whether some doubt raising political decisions are not the effect of our pressure. Indeed, the unrealistic last year state budget is the result of the Government's yielding to the requests of the institutions rather than taking into account the economic potential. In my opinion, the current situation in the country would have been more stable, if the politicians stopped making empty promises and the people stopped kindling unreasonable hopes. Only can the word of truth help us avoid making serious mistakes in the future.

The last year downfall in economy, which we did not dare to admit, has produced serious social hardships. The Government's debts last year and the shortage of resources this year have translated into serious hardships encountered by education, social security, health care and the police. The level of the unemployment has surged alarmingly and poverty has stricken an increasing number of the people.

Economic and social hardships have exposed startlingly a long-standing crisis in some fields of public administration. Criminal economic ineffectiveness, delay in making necessary decisions and avoidance of individual responsibility are the most manifested signs of this crisis. Public companies suffering from poor management and the sluggishness of law enforcement institutions are the saddest consequences of it.

We cannot but notice confusion in public's awareness. We increasingly notice the lack of clear guidelines. The past mistakes and the current difficulties make the people doubt the strategic guidelines of Lithuania's development. Categorical statements such as "whom do we have to vote for in elections to avoid joining NATO?" appear in the Lithuanian press.

Valentikas Sventickas, an inhabitant of Kaunas, writes in his letter to me, " Lithuanian people are surprised that even you support pushing Lithuania into a new form of slavery - into the European Union and NATO. When will this slight stop? … The more Lithuania is destroyed, the stronger the emissaries of the European Union and NATO praise their masters and declare that Lithuania is 'prepared' for the new slavery. And you, Mr. President, not only support but also propagate it. What have we lost in the European Union? What have they brought us? Is it pornography, drug abuse, crime, egoism and destruction of national culture that we are after?"

Regrettably, such opinion is not an exception. Therefore I want to elaborate on those issues since there are politicians and intellectuals who try to appease such people and endeavour to return to the days of national rebirth and start anew the old discussion on the guidelines of Lithuania's development.

I want you to understand fully that the present day has opened up a historical possibility for us to overcome the attraction of the Soviet time, previous thinking and habits. It calls for responsibility and joint efforts. It calls for new policies, which are crucial today and which, I hope, we are able to devise and implement.

New policies mean first and foremost new requirements, which we - the community of citizens - must set for ourselves. They mean a rational, economically effective, transparent and future-oriented administration of the State and public life. Democratic governance of our common life should be based on individual initiative and responsibility, which should form the bedrock of our activity. Without them democracy in Lithuania will never be strong and effective.

New policies should be based on the unanimous agreement on the strategic guidelines of our development and commitment to the key goals of our state. Our commitments should be made clear and understandable to the people, leaving room only for discussions about the ways of their implementation.

Indeed, the people want to know now how Euro-Atlantic integration will affect their life and what new challenges they should be prepared for. I think that our public institutions should feel greater responsibility for informing the public about those issues. I also hope that our mass media will perform a more significant role in raising public awareness. Lithuanian politicians and public servants should not be allowed to cover their clumsy decision with real or imagined requirements of the European Union and turn the fear of change of the people into a European ogre.

Can we afford to manipulate the people's attitude to NATO and the European Union? I believe that neither the tragic experiences of Lithuania in the 20th century nor the present reality permits to be na?ve in talking national security without allies. We should not forget the warning of a Lithuanian writer Balys Sruoga who said, " history destined to build the house of Lithuania on the volcano of Vesuvius."

The historical duty of all the people of Lithuania is to ensure a secure future of our restored state and to secure a free and democratic life of our children and grandchildren. We are well aware that Lithuania is not able to have the army capable to defend the country in the given geopolitical area. But we have a possibility to become a member of the western defence arrangement - NATO and contribute to the Alliance. Membership in the Alliance is a realistic security guarantee. The sooner we shall join the western democratic defence community the quicker we shall enjoy the dividends of a more stable life and accelerated economic and social progress.

The European Union is no less important guarantee of our progress and future prosperity. Certainly, we may try to bridge without any support a decades long gap between the West and us. But we should not forget that the Western world is not static and progresses more quickly than we do. Therefore Lithuania can avoid the fate of a provincial laggard only by catching a high-speed train of Europe and being a fully paid-up passenger on that train. On the other hand, in negotiating with Brussels we should strive for the best possible membership conditions for Lithuania.

It would be na?ve to expect that someone from the outside will accelerate our integration into Europe and will force us to modernise our state, manage our economy more effectively or solve the social problems of our people. It is not the European Union but we who need to reform and raise the standard of living. And only we can ensure the success of transition process. We should understand that membership of the European Union per se would not bring us a better life. But it will provide more favourable conditions for building our wellbeing. We cannot pass on responsibility for our future.

Today we should not slow down the pace of Euro-Atlantic integration because of anti-western outbreaks or election tactics of some political parties. I wish to remind that you, distinguished members of the Seimas, can eliminate the remaining legal obstacle to Lithuania's accession to the European Union by amending some provisions of the Constitution of Lithuania. Therefore I reiterate my call on all the parliamentary parties to reach an agreement on the constitutional amendments and make decisions necessary for the future development of our state by the end of this term of the Seimas. Such decisions would be a clear manifestation of the new policy.

I think that our policies should be free of outdated prejudice and myth and should project Lithuania's future on the European cultural and economic level. By no means we can tolerate anti-Semitism and hatred of other cultures and differently thinking people. I am convinced that their manifestation in Kaunas, the former provisional capital, is a passing phenomenon and that our people reject them.

Today we are increasingly aware that there is no longer a clear dividing line between domestic and foreign affairs. The current stage of our development requires the presence of a well-orchestrated state policy able to address skilfully the internal and external issues.

The strategy of economic development of Lithuania should be based on the search for the niches for our products in the European and world markets. We need to move to a modern policy of 'market diplomacy' and pursue it with determination and vigour, which we had displayed in our struggle for independence. I expect that our diplomatic first and foremost will undertake concrete steps in this direction.

A healthy and dynamic national economy and hence the well being of the Lithuanian people is the prime goal of our State. Today we should build the foundation for a long-term economic growth, which our Government seems to be committed to. Today our Government has to do what other governments, even though having better conditions and more time, failed to accomplish.

It is therefore essential to ensure a timely fulfilment of the tasks of our Government, and to orient its activity towards the future and base its work on the principles of new policies.

In my opinion, new policies should tune business liberalisation to strategic guidelines of economic development of the country. They should institute fair competition and disciplined tax-paying culture.

Lithuania should create a stable business friendly environment unrestricted by artificial bureaucratic barriers. I consider that both these conditions are essential for business recovery and hence the growth of the well being of the people. I have formulated this task in my last year annual address but the former Government took little notice of it.

The Sunrise Commission established by the current government has already submitted the first proposals on how to simplify the taxation system, invigorate the capital market and improve the work of the customs. Still, I urge the Government not to limit itself to a partial solution of existing problems.

I think that the current taxation system requires an essential rather than a partial reform. We should harmonise it with the standards applied in the civilised world and tailor it to the requirements of the current economic situation. But we can succeed in this task only by creating the new and abolishing the out-dated taxation legislation that in most cases is adequate to the economic and social situation which existed five or even ten years ago.

Restructuring of state monopolies remains one of the prime tasks of the Government. These monopolies, which have not been subjected to reform and have been lacking good corporate governance, have become a serious burden for our economy instead of providing a solid groundwork for Lithuania's economic growth.

We have inherited from the Soviet time a huge energy industry which capacity considerably exceeds the needs of Lithuania. To ensure its successful management we need not only to introduce appropriate modern corporate governance, but also to invest large capital. So far we have been lacking both.

The debts of the neighbouring state for imported electricity, which are still running high, a scandalous construction of the power bridge to the West, the decommissioning fund of the Ignalina NPP, which has remained only a declaration, privatisation of the Company Mažeikių Nafta which acquired the features of a political drama - those are energy-related problems faced by the state, which had triggered the resignation of even two Governments.

Therefore it is essential to ensure a transparent restructuring process endorsed across the political spectrum. It is no less important to make it clear and easy to understand to the people.

The Government should be concerned with the future operation of the Company Mažeikių Nafta and should place this issue at the top of its agenda. Only can a quick modernisation of Lithuania's oil sector and its establishment in the European market ensure long-term benefits to our people.

Restructuring of the energy utilities and other state monopolies cannot be successful without your, dear members of the Seimas, support. Unbundling of monopolies leading to a healthy competition and a more dynamic development of the industry and the businesses will depend on the laws on restructuring the electricity and gas companies "Lietuvos Energija" and "Lietuvos Geležinkeliai."

It is no less important today to create the legal framework for a more rapid adaptation of our businesses and industries to the changing environment. We should speed up bankruptcy procedures where they cannot be avoided and restructure dying companies.

New policies mean the ability to ensure social and economic cohesion and to attend to the individual needs and the vital interests of the nation.

The political forces, which were and are in power, have promoted big business and have taken a hands-off attitude to small and medium sized business. Such a position of the authorities has impeded the emergence of the middle class, which is the bedrock of civil society, and resulted in large-scale social differences.

Different surveys show that in terms of the spread between the rich and the poor in the region of post-communist economies Lithuania is ahead of only Russia and Ukraine. Such is a painful result of although intentionally not planned but actually present influence of powerful lobbies over the development of national economy. I think that the isolated impoverished communities, for example in Didžiasalis, which have appeared lately, are the most difficult legacy of our short-sighted policy. We can fight this legacy only by using all available tools of education, which encourage the innovation and entrepreneurial skills of the people and by creating adequate conditions for the development of small and medium sized business.

We should follow the practise of Western and Central European economies and revitalise and expand business consulting and information systems. Besides, we should consider how to reduce bureaucracy that burdens small business. Is it wise in the given circumstances to abolish the licensing of economic activities? Maybe a differentiated approach to licensing would serve a better job.

I think that encouraging small and medium sized business is a matter of vital importance to our state. According to the data of the National Labour Exchange small and medium sized business is today the main source of new jobs and hence a feasible instrument in reducing the level of unemployment.

Long-term crediting on favourable conditions could get off the ground the housing and school refurbishing programmes, which in their turn would revitalise construction industry, create new jobs and help to address the topical education and social problems encountered by young families.

Development of export potential is yet another task in raising our well being. We should pay the prime attention to the industries with export capacity.

Likewise we should look most seriously at the present product lines selecting those which will give us a stronger base for effective expansion in the international markets. Today information technologies are the most rapidly developing industry in the world and Lithuania must orient its economy towards it. The strength of this industry lies in human intellect and information skills. It is a relatively new industry having good prospects. It is an instrument, which can ensure the immediate progress of our nation. I believe that it is not yet late for Lithuania to take on board the ideas of the IT experts who maintain that post-communist economies should invest at least a certain percentage of the proceeds from privatisation into the development of information technologies and IT industry.

The Lithuanian agriculture needs a new policy oriented towards the needs of those who work in it. The state has no right to desert the agriculture, which stands at a crossroad feeling deceived, full of anger and seeing no prospect. The time has come to admit honestly that the former policy of empty promises and putting out fires is bankrupt and has affected in the most severe way the farmers and their families.

I cannot avoid emotions reading the composition of a farmer's daughter from Linkaičiai. She writes, "I wish with all my heart that my parents were not told lies any more. Do you know how tired my mother and father are after carrying each morning to the dairy the cans heavy with milk? But all is in vain as nobody pays [for milk]. We have wasted the river of milk."

Farmers rightly want to know how they can earn their living today and tomorrow. Therefore it is important to devise feasible rural development programmes based on realistic assessment of the state possibilities and oriented to local and external markets.

When in power the Lithuanian Labour Democratic Party invested several billions of litas into agriculture but failed to achieve essential changes which is recognised even by the ideologists of the recent protest campaigns of farmers. A large farm owner who supported the policy of the Labour Democratic Party writes in his open letter, "The principle mistake of the past was the failure to elaborate a long-term agricultural development strategy." It is likewise obvious that during the rule of the Conservatives many billions of litas were invested into agriculture without a clear strategy. Last year farmers were promised a full-range of different subsidies. Regrettably, they did not receive them, as the budget was empty. Up to now the state owes farmers millions of litas. This gap between the promises and the ability to fulfil them has impoverished the farmers and destroyed the business plans of many agricultural workers.

The situation is indeed serious. But what is the proposed way out of it? We hear the urge to increase payments from the budget, to close the door to Europe and the world and to 'feed twenty millions of our neighbours" with Lithuanian made food products in some mysterious way. It is predicted that, if we fail to do it, the agriculture will die together with Lithuania and Lithuanians who "have nothing else but the land."

I understand well the mood of our farmers and their concern about further development of agriculture. I too wish to see the Lithuanian agriculture healthy and prospering. However, I am aware that neither a government and nor a ruling party is able to ensure the prosperity of agriculture by promises alone.

Indeed, Lithuania needs a healthy agriculture. But only raising its competitive ability can ensure its health. The agricultural and rural development strategy designed to achieve both the goals has been long awaiting the approval of the Seimas. Such a strategy is an absolute necessity today, but it should be backed up with well-thought practical ways of solving rural problems.

The State should undertake without further delay a rational approach to differentiated financial support to agriculture and recognise that some aspects of it require social support whereas others, such as commercial farms, require aid to get them stronger and develop position in the market. The third and no less important target of rural development is the advancement of small business in rural areas. This task requires a targeted rural development programme providing for expert advice and more favourable conditions of crediting.

A more intensive land market would also invigorate agriculture but its development today is impeded by a number of artificial barriers. It is not normal that only a half of the land liable to restitution has been returned to the owners. This process is obviously delayed, though LTL 180 million were allocated from the state budget to implement this procedure. How can we explain to the people that some counties were able to return the land whereas the others have built insurmountable bureaucratic barriers? When will finally the Ministry of Agriculture demand individual responsibility from civil servants?

In my opinion, a reformed system of education plays an essential role in rural development. But the pessimism of the children and the young people living in rural areas indicates to the serious shortcomings in the system of education.

Their letters speak for themselves. For example, a ninth year student from Trakai district writes, " I try not to give in. I do not want to follow my neighbours who think only about studying till they reach sixteen. … I could do that. But what comes next? Lounging about with those who somehow completed nine years of studies and cannot find a job? Nobody needs them. Yes, parents provide food, but they have no money for further education. There are many young people in my village who bristle with anger and malice or are simply indifferent to everything."

We must institute serious measures to help the young people living in rural areas to escape from this vicious circle of despair. We must provide them with access to a high standard education, to include new vocational expert training in rural vocational schools and open our universities to them. In my opinion, the first steps have been made in this direction.

We need further reforms in the field of education and science. New policies should give priority to education and should ensure a closer link between the school and the society as well as a more rational administration of the education system. Our task is to ensure wide access to secondary and vocational education, to colleges and universities and to equip our young people with such skills and knowledge, which will permit them to live and work in contemporary environment.

Provision of schools with necessary teaching and learning materials still causes serious concern. The difficulties can be partly attributed to financial constraints. But disrupted funding of publishing school textbooks and postponement of the school computerisation programme is also not normal. Indeed we are at the bottom of the list in the latter field. Currently one computer is used by more than seventy school students. The Western European countries are well ahead of us in this area and the level of school computerisation in Estonia and Latvia is several times higher. Together with private companies the Ministry of Education and Science endeavours to speed up computerisation of our schools. It is the right way. However, I believe that creation of the information society is the task of national importance, which requires an enhanced attention of the Government and the Seimas. Libraries of Lithuania should also be active stakeholders in this process. Consistent implementation of the library modernisation programme, which has already been worked out, would assist in transforming them into modern information centres.

I am convinced that strong universities and strong colleges is the key to strong Lithuania. But our universities and colleges will grow stronger provided there is competition, effective management and curricula oriented to the needs of the people and the requirements of economy. I believe that the Law on Higher Education, which was passed this year, will help them to acquire new strength. This law opens up new ways for the Ministry of Education and Science to undertake together with schools a new policy: to establish clear-cut criteria of education based on cultural and economic needs of the country and to move from spontaneous support to educational institutions to a targeted funding of training and scientific programmes. I consider that one of the tasks of the new policy is to provide the young scientists of Lithuania with such education, which will enable them to compete on an international scale.

Another important aspect of our future is the learning society and the system of continuous adult training based on computer distance learning network, which is getting increasingly popular in the world. We have to develop this system now. The changing world requires new cultural, economic and political literacy and the education network should be designed to satisfy this requirement.

Pension reform, which the Government works on now, will also serve the needs of our people. The envisaged three-pillar pension system will provide for a more secure retirement. Pension funds will also contribute to the expansion of the capital market.

The poverty elimination strategy, which is of utmost importance to the people, is undergoing the last stage of improvement. We must implement it in order to alleviate the burden of over six thousands of people stricken by poverty. I am well aware that the current Government will not be able because of the lack of time and funds to complete a number of tasks envisaged in the strategy, but I expect that the major proposals on how to eliminate the poverty will be included into election programmes of our political parties. I fully support the prime target of the strategy to alleviate the burden of poverty by pooling the efforts of the authorities, private business, non-governmental organisations and religious communities.

During my visit to Utena I have repeatedly got convinced that we can already today improve the social situation. Active non-governmental organisation, charitable companies and businessmen together with the municipal authorities of Utena and the Church successfully care for the people in need.

We are the community of citizens, which can and must help its members. I hope that the traditions of solidarity and charity inherent in local communities will be backed up and strengthened by the newly elected municipal authorities. The Government and the Seimas should also contribute their share. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that already the seventh draft law on charity and support, which is long awaited by our people, still waits the decision of the Government.

Last year alone, when the economic situation was particularly difficult, the charitable activity of the Lithuanian companies and individual persons amounted to LTL 50 million. But our businesses could designate more considerable funds for supporting the people, if charity was encouraged by a more balanced the tax relief system and if bureaucratic barriers to charity were eliminated.

I think that the inertia of bureaucracy and the lack of transparent criteria in funding impede to a large extent the health care reform. The health care reform should target today more specifically the quality of medical services and accessibility to them. Today we need to switch to a real health insurance. It is necessary to guarantee by legal instruments the right of the people to choose the doctor in any, private or public, health care institution. The people still lack information about the ongoing changes in the health care system, about medical services, their quality and prices.

The growing number of people whose health deteriorates because worsening living conditions should cause our concern. Therefore the health care reform should not lose touch with reality and must be coupled with social policy. In transforming the system we should take into consideration the interests of the most vulnerable groups of society.

We carry out a number of complicated long-term strategic reforms. Nevertheless we should not neglect the current painful problems and delay their solution. We cannot continue covering the lack of political will and the inability to deal pragmatically and responsibly with urgent matters with the promises of a better life in the near future.

In my opinion new policies mean new effective administration of public affairs based on the principles of responsibility and transparency. The new effective administration requires reforming the state budget. We must consistently introduce the state budget based on programmes and strategic planning, and oriented clearly towards the priorities of societal development. I hope that the reforms started by the Government in this field will preclude from repeating the mistakes made in forming and implementing the state budget last year.

The growing public debt shows poor administration of public funds. I think that the time has come for strengthening the independence of the treasury institution, which must operate according to legally established procedures, approved allocations and fixed debt limits rather than satisfying political whims.

We should abandon the practise of careless wasting of public funds and focus on economically effective their management. Indeed, inefficient use of resources is evident even such fields as education, social security and health care where scarce funding is mot severe.

I keenly follow the activity of the Sunset Commission. I expect that it will make concrete and resolute decisions, which will reduced the power and the costs of bureaucracy. I think that the public administration reform should also provide for a more justified system of remuneration of public servants.

Public institutions and public companies must have an independent internal audit system which effective functioning must be ensured first and foremost by the management. Negligence and economic inefficiency of public servants, which cost a lot to taxpayers, should be treated as a crime and should entail individual responsibility. People's anger is justified when they see that decisions and actions causing huge damage to the state fail to receive proper legal assessment and those responsible for them avoid the punishment. We should put an end to this practise. I hope that the Office of the State Control will more thoroughly undertake economic crime prevention and that the Office of the Prosecutor General will not delay investigation of such cases.

Unrestrained corruption translates into a national security problem. It has become a serious malady in our state, which entails the loss of revenues and undermines the trust of the people in the state. Although with some delay, we must fight corruption in municipal and highest level public institutions. We should start with simple matters, which, I believe, cause the concern of many people. Why do some municipalities, for example, buy fuel for the heating season only when its price is at the peak? Why was the computer system not introduced in the customs offices in Lithuania?

Conflicts of professional interests have become an established practise in Lithuania and the law, which regulates this field, is not effective. In an attempt to introduce greater transparency in the political life of the country, I have proposed to the Seimas to amend the law so that the political parties could avoid the influence of financial groups. Regrettably, my proposal has not received a more serious consideration. It is also unclear why the law on the special investigation service, which should ensure the independence of this institution, has not been passed up to now. We should also consider the measures providing for a more effective performance of the Office of the Prosecutor General. All those decisions are in your hands, dear members of the Seimas, and they depend only on your political will.

The Council for improving the activity of operational services as been active for some time. I hope that we shall soon witness the first concrete results of its work. In this context I would like to draw your attention to two aspects. First, operational activity should not be used against political opponents. Second, the institutions engaged in operational activity should strictly abide by law. Both aspects are important principles of a democratic state. But the facts published in our press show that they are not always followed consistently. New policies also face an essential task of consistently protecting the civil rights and human dignity. The state, which shows no respect for individual, cannot and will not be respected. Our authorities are still insensitive to restraining the rights and freedoms of the individual and daily degradation of the people by bureaucracy. Up to now the passport of a Lithuanian citizen contains a mandatory entry on the permanent place of residence. This fact is an eloquent indication of such indifference.

I think that in our law making effort we should be concerned how to reduce bureaucratic constraints and strengthen the protection of inherent human rights and freedoms.

The High Seimas,
Dear Fellow Citizens,

New policies mean joint administration of public affairs. The right and the duty of each citizen to participate in this process are enshrined in our Constitution, which reads, "The State of Lithuania shall be created by the People." Thus it is we who, guided by the ultimate goal of prosperity for our children and ourselves, build the State by defending the principles and values of our life.

There should be no matters in Lithuania, which concern solely the authorities, and no official has the right to prohibit us from taking interest in them. We should not forget that the Constitution restricts the powers of the authorities and that human rights and freedoms are above the their power.

Yet, sometimes I am advised not to interfere into 'other people's business'. But I did it and will continue doing it as all the issues, be they related to the state or the people of Lithuania, concern me. And I, as a citizen of Lithuania and the leader of the State, feel responsible for them.

I am well aware that I am not the only stakeholder and that the Constitutions limits my powers. But I consider that I can address jointly with the other public institutions the majority of serious problems. I know that my ideas and concrete proposals are not always implemented and are not always supported by the Government and you, the distinguished members of the Seimas.

But I have always sought for the allies to implement my programme and the project of Lithuania's modernisation. I have always sought for the agreement across the political spectrum on the issues of vital importance to the nation.

I believe in wisdom and strong will of the Lithuanian people. I see the increasing strength of constructive political parties. I hope that greater progress and success, wider solidarity and deeper wisdom and greater self-confidence will mark the second decade of the independence.

Distinguished Members of the Seimas,
Dear People of Lithuania,
Dear Fellow Citizens,

I extend to you my most sincere wishes for a happy Easter.

Maintained by the Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania. Please specify source when quoting.